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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

YEARS OF WANDERINGS                        223

litigation involved later, but a writer in the following century recorded
that one of Su Tungpo's great-grandchildren was still living on a farm
at Ishing.

Su now made a deal, which was extremely foolish or very magnani-
mous, according to the way one looks at it. He wrote to Ten that he
was going to find a house on the Ching River, and he did. With his
friend Shao Minchan, he had found a good old homestead and had paid
five hundred dollars for it. This took about all the cash that he had, but
Su Tungpo was very happy and was planning to go back and bring his
family to live in this new house. One night, however, he was walking
in the moonlight in the village with Shao, when they {>assed a house
and heard a woman sobbing inside. Su Tungpo and Shao knocked at
the door and went in. An old woman was weeping in a corner. On
being asked what was the matter, the old woman replied:

"I have a house which has belonged to our family for over a hundred
years. I have a bad son who has sold it to somebody. Today I have had
to move out of the old house where I have been living all my life—this
is why I am crying."

"Where is your house?" asked Su Tungpo, greatly touched.
To his amazement, he found that it was the one that he had bought
for five hundred dollars. Taking the deed of the sale from his pocket,,
|jfe burned it before the old woman. The next day he sent for her son
and told him to move his mother back to the old house, without asking
for the return of the money. Whether the son had already used the
money to pay debts or was otherwise unable to give back the money,
we do not know. Su therefore returned to the city without a house,
and minus five hundred dollars. But it was an impulse so fine and
beautiful that the poet could not resist it, regardless of consequences
for his own family, If that was a beautiful thing to do, it was a beauti-
ful thing to do—that was all.

Returning from Changchow, he wrote a letter to tjie Emperor in
October to ask permission to live there. Until the permission was
granted, however, he had to proceed toward his designated post* which
was far away west of the capital, a journey of about five hundred miles.
He was travelling with his whole big family in the direction of the
:apital, taking plenty of time about it, in the hope that he would not
liave to incur the expenses of travelling back and forth in case his
request was granted. Receiving no news from the court, he left
reluctantly and approached the capital. His family was actually starv-
ing, if we can believe his own poems. When they came to the Huai
River at Szechow, he wrote to his friends at least three poems in which
be mentioned hunger. In one of these he compared himself to a hungry
mouse gnawing at something all night. When^the magistrate sent some
Food to the boat, a cry of joy went up from the children. It looked as if